Thursday, 3 November 2011

My Problem With Reality

I've never been very good at real life.

That's probably not a huge shock for most of the people who've met me, but please let me elaborate. My problem with real life is simple: it's not very well written. Everyone knows what makes up a good story. You want a catchy opening to grab your attention, interesting characters that are introduced logically and who get development and arc as the plot moves forward, some solid structure a little bit of foreshadowing, and a satisfying well-constructed conclusion that ties up all the loose ends and makes some kind of sense. That doesn't seem like too much to ask, does it? We expect it from our entertainment and we cry foul if we don't get it. Unless we're talking about foreign film, but that's a topic for another day (much like my review of Once Upon a Time in Tombstone).

But real life hardly ever works that way. We're expected to figure out what's going on without any flashbacks or exposition or narration. The characters are either unmemorable or unbelievable and there's no satisfying resolution to any of the ongoing plots. I'd say it's like one of those night-time drama soap operas, but even they have some structure to them. Heck, even so-called Reality TV has a better plot than actual reality does.

And let's talk about pacing. In any decent story - be it television, movie, novel, or campfire tale - the action is spread around so there aren't long boring stretches followed by everything happening all at once. Once again real life steadfastly refuses to follow even the most basic rules of story development and structure. Reality is also filled with fiddly little details and long passages of time where absolutely nothing interesting happens. This is the kind of stuff that any good story totally glosses over. I'm not necessarily saying this is a bad thing it's just how real life differs from a good story.

Despite all the Chekov's Guns that go unfired and all the Occam's Razors that never get to shave their conclusions down in real life, I'm still stuck with it until something better comes along. That's why I like to take little vacations from reality by playing games (where balance and mechanics often over rule petty concerns like realism and accuracy), reading, and writing. Real life does have the advantage of surprise; unpredictability is hard to predict after all.

In other, completely unrelated parts of real life, I'd like to give a shout out to a great web page that my real life cousins have put together. If you're so inclined, click on over to Despite Everything Obama. Warning: Contains Politics.

Speaking of real life, Monday and the Murdered Man lurches zombie-like ever closer to publication. If all goes well and no one shoots it (or me) in the head, I will have some cover art to show soon. If other parts of all go equally well, the upgrade for the Verdigris interactive steampunk novel will be available at iTunes by the time you're reading this. We added two new storylines, a bunch of new locations and simply hundreds of new screens of material. If you've already bought the original Verdigris, the upgrade is free. If you haven't gotten it yet, it will set you back a mere 99 cents.

Addendum: Things didn't go well, but at least no one has been shot. Yet. Why isn't anything ever as easy as it's supposed to be? In theory, all we had to do was upload the new Verdigris build and have a sandwich. Guess what? You guessed it: Real life strikes again. This game has been so tricky, I'm beginning to think I should have cribbed from MacBeth instead of Hamlet. The first time we planned to do the update (a few months ago, my partner João had to go on a series of business trips. This was a good thing at the time, because it meant his day job was actually going well, but it put things off. We had planned to do the build and load out last weekend, but Mother Nature intervened in the form a 4 and 1/2 day power outage. (Believe me Dear Reader when I tell you that heat and light are good things to have.)

And that brings us to today wherein the our code seems to have chosen to redefine how parentheses work. Or something like that. I leave the programming details to my partner; I'm just the word monkey. A couple of hours of multilingual cursing later and much talk about partially versus fully formed expressions, what the aforementioned expressions can and can't see, and something about the correct binding of tokens, things were back where they used to be ... I hope. Maybe we can publish the update tomorrow. Sometimes reality sucks more than others.

Stay tuned for further developments.

November 6th, 2011
Chelmsford, MA

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